Iranian President Hassan Rouhani may be the warm and fuzzy face of Iranian diplomatic outreach to the West, but inside Iran, the face of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program is Ali Akbar Salehi, a former foreign minister who now serves as the head of the Iran Atomic Energy Organization. After some anonymous Iranian figures encouraged speculation that Iran might be willing to negotiate about the once-covert nuclear plant at Fordo, near Qom—speculation which the New York Times dutifully reported—it was Salehi who (even before the New York Times went to press) declared in no uncertain terms that the Iranian government would under no circumstances shutter the underground facility.
Now, Salehi is at it again and, as usual, Western journalists ignore his inconvenient statements because they do not appear to fit with the narrative of Iranian flexibility and diplomatic sincerity that so many Western officials and writers appear so desperate to believe. On November 19, Mehr News Agency published a report regarding a visit by Salehi to over 1,000 Tehran University students who volunteered as human shields and formed a human chain around Fordo. According to an unclassified U.S. government summary of his speech, he declared, “All actions are taken within a framework which is agreed upon by all officials. All our rights are safe. [...] God willing, the outlook before us will be the beginning of the end of the fabricated nuclear dossier.”
Generally speaking, any regime that believes it needs to utilize human shields is not one that should be trusted, nor is it a regime to which the United States or any progressive country should ever want to throw a life line.